In A Remote Part Of Washington, A Scramble To Save Cattle From Flames

More than 1,000 square miles of wildfires are burning in Washington state. In the remote Okanogan Valley in the north-central part of the state, many cattle ranchers are scrambling to save their herds.Ranchers in Omak, Wash., have lost animals, barns, pasture and winter haystacks to the wildfires. But some people still have their cattle, and at the town's Ag Tech Feed Store, owners Monte and Laurie Andrews are trying to help keep those ranchers in business."We're trying to make sure that...
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US National Weather Service Spokane Washington

A very bad scenario looks to play out Saturday when it comes to the weather and fires burning in North Central and Northeast Washington.

While the weather forecast looked promising Thursday in calling for rains to hit both regions, the newest prediction could not be worse when it comes to the wildfires.

Meteorologist Andy Brown of the National Weather Service in Spokane is calling for sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph Saturday, with gusts up to 50, and even higher gusts in the mountains.

This has been one of the worst — and most expensive — wildfire seasons ever in the Northwest, where climate change and a history of suppressing wildfires have created a dangerous buildup of fuels.

With fires burning hotter and more intense, there are renewed calls to change how the federal government pays to fight the biggest fires.

"These large and intense fires are a natural disaster in much the same way a hurricane or a tornado or a flood is," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says. "And they ought to be funded as such through the emergency funding of FEMA."

CREDIT AUSTIN JENKINS / NORTHWEST NEWS NETWORK

Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the fires burning across the state represent a “new normal.” On a tour of the fire lines Thursday, the Democrat reiterated his call for a program to limit carbon emissions.

“So we got to attack this at its source which is carbon pollution. And that’s for another day. Right now we’ve got to put out these fires,” said Inslee.

The battle continues to contain dozens of large wildfires burning across the Northwest. Firefighters are hoping for a break in the weather this weekend -- and perhaps even some rain.

A new report Thursday from the Oregon Secretary of State says lax enforcement has allowed hundreds of de facto casinos across the state. Non-tribal casinos are banned by the state constitution.

CREDIT CHRIS LEHMAN / NORTHWEST NEWS NETWORK

With the surge in wildfires this year, firefighters are facing a new challenge; interference from drones. 

Unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft are being flown near active wildfires.  The safety issues they cause can keep aircraft grounded—and keep them from the frequently critical task of dropping retardant. 

“Flying a drone near a wildfire is putting someone else’s life in danger, whether it be firefighters on the ground, pilots in the air…your drone hobby is not worth someone else’s life…”

The incident command for Washington’s biggest wildfire requested a mental health team to help people in Okanogan County. A national nonprofit called Green Cross has responded to the call.

The state of Oregon is getting ready to send $402 million back to taxpayers. State economists Wednesday announced the first so-called kicker rebate since 2007.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen traveled to China last year and touted a company that’s now at the center of a federal fraud investigation.

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